Are you living in clutter? One of the least-discussed symptoms of CPTSD as a result of a toxic relationship with a narcissist is the way you keep your space – your home and/or office. This can take one of two forms: extreme organization and obsessively clean – or cluttered and disorganized. In both cases, there parallels we can draw to our pasts and our toxic relationships.
But when survivors are obsessively clean and organized, most people won’t see this as a negative issue (unless it gets to the point of OCD, but that is another video). Today, though, we are going to discuss clutter and how it is often a symptom of CPTSD, as well as some solutions you can try to resolve this in your own life.
I remember seeing this episode of Oprah years ago where she talked about how your home is an external representation of your mind and your soul – this really struck home with me because there I was, living in a cluttered mess. And when I thought about it, I realized that she was right – something in me had been broken and it left me flailing. I didn’t know how to get out from under it, and every time I even considered trying, I would walk in, take one look and then turn around and walk out.
Here is the thing.
When we are in a toxic relationship, we have no control. Whether the narcissist dictates our cleaning schedule (like my first narcissist did) or they make us feel out of control in other ways (like my ex-husband did), we often find ourselves feeling stuck, lethargic or just plain exhausted during and after these relationships. We keep things for sentimental reasons, for example, or we keep them because we think we will use them one day. We might keep stuff because it helps us feel secure or in control in some way.
Some of us even have “organized clutter” – tons of boxes and bins, all labeled properly and stacked neatly – none of which we will ever use or need.
But in any case, we can look at clutter like extra weight in our lives – it’s overwhelming and feels impossible to drop, but when we begin to take one baby step at a time, we can drop both the weight and the clutter. (Often when we get control of the clutter, we also figure out how to get control of our weight).
The solution isn’t going to happen overnight but there are things we can do to change our ways for the better and improve our lives.
You already know that clutter can make you feel stressed and leave you less free time to enjoy your life. We know it can ruin our social lives and cause tons of other issues. But did you know that simple mindfulness can quickly allow you to cut through the clutter (even more than cleaning)?
Why We Can’t Let Go of Our Stuff
Most people hold on to clutter because they assign the possession some kind of emotional significance. For example, a broken toy might still be in the closet because it was the last toy that a loved one gave a person before they passed away. So the owner of the wagon associates the love with the wagon.
One of the reasons that so many people struggle to get rid of things, both physical and emotional, is because the decluttering process can be painful and overwhelming – especially when you look at it as a whole.
The Key to Letting Go and Decluttering After a Toxic Relationship
Mindfulness can help you get rid of clutter because it allows you to maintain your focus on one area or one issue at a time that needs to be dealt with. You’ll be able to simplify your life, keep what needs to be kept and let go of what you need to be free from.
Focus only on what truly matters to you. By using mindfulness to help you clear out the clutter, you’ll get rid of stress, too. The things we keep and the emotions we won’t let go of can be reminders of what was.
You might think that if you don’t address them, then you don’t have to deal with these things. But clutter hovers and you sense it in your subconscious. When you let mindfulness help you declutter your life, you’ll be able to maintain a better ability to focus in all areas of your life.
You’ll feel better emotionally when you let go of things. You’ll also be able to find things when you need them instead of searching and getting stressed when you can’t find something.
Plus, you won’t spend as much money buying things that you forgot that you already had. A big benefit of using mindfulness to let go of the clutter is that it does more than give you more room in your home or in your office.
It allows you to let go of the mental and emotional clutter so that you’re able to have more improved mindfulness, too. For the best results, go through every area of your life one portion at a time and clear out the clutter.
Practical Solutions for Decluttering After Narcissistic Abuse
1. Get some help! If you can afford it, pay someone to come over and help you get things organized. Or recruit your kids. Or offer to help a friend declutter their home and in return, ask them to help you declutter yours. It can be very overwhelming and sometimes just having a second set of hands makes all the difference.
2. Take baby steps. I have a free 30-day decluttering program over at Life Makeover Academy – go check that out and sign up. You don’t have to do it all in 30 days – but if you take the time to work through the steps when you can, your home will be decluttered by the end of the program.
3. If you’ve always found it too difficult because you think the task is too big, give yourself fifteen minutes a day to focus on the clutter. When you break a task down, you’ll find that it’s easier to do.
Today is an easy day. Yesterday was tough and you made it through – because obviously you are amazing!! Today, we are going to take it easy – we’ll plan for the next few days, and do some shopping – either right in our homes or out in the stores.
If you have anything left to finish, go ahead and do that now.
Pick up any mess your family has made in the last 24 hours. Run the vacuum in your clean new family room, straighten a pillow or two, or just stand back and admire how amazing it looks.
Next, why not reward yourself for your determination and do a little shopping?
Head to a Super Store, an office supply store or your favorite storage specialty store and have some fun. Buy a label maker.
These useful little things may seem a little Type-A but Type-A is good in your new, organized home.
Your plan is to stay organized, right?
The process of discretely labeling boxes and other containers can help you both remember what is in them, and make it easier and faster to replace that item properly.
You can also investigate nice storage tubs, pretty file folders and unique baskets. They do not have to be expensive to be effective. If you can afford it, buy a bunch; we have 25 more days of organizing to get to and a lot of rooms, drawers and shelves to organize.
**LINKS MENTIONED**These are the links I promised to the things that I bought to do my decluttering and organization over the next 24 days:
Today we are tackling one of the messiest rooms in the house. The Family Room.
Take a deep breath and let’s get to it.
Get four tubs or boxes and label them “Toss”, “Donate”, “Keep” and “Relocate”. Keep is for items that will stay in this room and Relocate is for things that need to go somewhere else in the house. Starting in a corner, work your way around the room. Clear off the top of each horizontal surface and empty out every drawer. Put the items in the appropriate bins.
Be strict with yourself about what you keep. Do you really need your collection of design magazines from 1992? Do you need a Barney VHS video when your “baby” just turned 12? Your local library loves donations like this. Better yet, with today’s modern technology and streaming services like Netflix, you can probably watch most of the movies in your collection at no additional charge. Why not donate them all? Imagine all that extra space.
Games are another challenge for the family room. If you can find all the pieces, then make space in a cabinet so your family can easily access the fun. If you are missing too many pieces to make it work, get rid of it. Who wants to play Yahtzee with only 3 die?
Make sure you clean, dust, wipe, whatever before you replace the Keep items. This includes the back of the electronics, the top of the picture frames, everything. You’ll thank me when you’re done.
Our organizing task today is more of a “gathering” task. You need to gather all your important papers, irreplaceable documents and valuable jewelry. Find each family member’s original social security card and birth certificate, as well as original copies of death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees. Get the actual policy for your life, homeowner’s or renter’s insurances as well as the original copies of your will, living will and medical power of attorney.
Find your grandmother’s wedding band, your dad’s senior picture and any other irreplaceable items that would just break your heart if you lost. You can also grab the memory stick that you use to back up your hard drive (although research using the “cloud” for this as it is now more efficient).
Where am I going with this? A safe, of course. As you can see from the items we collected, you don’t need to be wealthy to need a safe. Make sure it is large enough to accommodate everything and fire rated for at least 2 hours.
Don’t automatically store it in your master bedroom closet. That’s the first place a thief would look. Think about natural disasters. If you live in a tornado prone area, keep your safe in the basement. If you live in an area that floods, keep it near the door so you can grab it and go.
Today’s task may seem silly to some of you but you would be surprised how many people do not take the time for this and regret it later. Being organized also means being prepared.
Welcome back to day three of our 30-day decluttering challenge! Today we’re going to work on organizing either the entertainment center, media area or the formal living room in your house.
If you think there’s not much to clean and sort through, you’re probably right … and wrong.
Most formal spaces are already neat as a pin. We don’t live in those rooms; sometimes we don’t even enter them. We tend to hide our chaos and clutter in the back of the house, in the rooms most guests don’t see. That’s fine. But, we are on this mission to organize our homes and taking a day for this room is still extremely useful.
If you have clutter or objects that do not belong in this room, by all means, take care of it now. If not, what have you always wanted to do to this room? Take the time now to try the sofa on another wall. Take the time to finally hang up that picture. Or, even, take the time to order new curtains.
Do whatever it is that you have been putting off.
So much of our lives is disorganized because we are constantly on the go and do not take time to do the little things. The next thing you know the little things have piled up into one massive BIG thing! I hereby grant you the time today.
What are you going to do with it?
Take everything out. The coats, the hangers, the boxes – everything. Sweep or vacuum the floor and wipe down the shelf.
Before you just stick everything back in and close the door – stop. Sort through what you own. Do you need it? Does it still fit? Be brutal.
This is the front closet, not a storage unit. Your guests will use this and it should look presentable.
Put nice, inexpensive baskets on the shelf for storing out of season gear, like hats, gloves and scarves. Get some wooden hangers for the coats, making sure that you have plenty of extra ones for guests to use. They may seem like an expensive item but you can get nice wood hangers for less than $10 at any Super Store. Line up any shoes or boots neatly in the back. After your purging, cleaning and new storage solutions, this closet should look like a million bucks.
If you have extra time today, take five minutes and step outside. Give the front porch a quick sweep, wipe the cobwebs off the coach light and shake out the welcome mat.
Doesn’t it feel better to have such a welcoming entrance to your home?
See you tomorrow.
Cleaning and organization are only part of this deal. Decluttering is more for those of us who have experienced narcissistic relationships.